What makes a hurricane so dangerous?
Hurricanes are the world’s fiercest storms. Due to the widespread destruction they caused, we still remember the names of the worst among them.
Hurricanes are gigantic wind and rain generators powered by warm ocean water and air.
When this heat energy is released as wind and rain, it can cause severe damage to buildings and communities.
But, the question is, “Exactly what makes a hurricane so deadly?”
Hurricanes pose a threat because of their destructive winds, heavy rain that can lead to flooding and landslides, and storm surge along coastlines.
What Makes a Hurricane So Dangerous?
When it comes to hurricanes, they are no joke! They are also called typhoons or cyclones depending on where you are.
They pack a serious punch and can wreak havoc on everything in their path. They are a force to be reckoned with and can jeopardize lives and property.
They are not only big and strong but can also be dangerous because of other factors, such as:
- High-speed winds
- Heavy rainfall
- Storm surges
Moreover, the fallout from these incidents frequently adds insult to injury, as deluges, structural harm, and the possibility of sickness epidemics complicate the recuperation journey and drag it out.
High Speed Winds
The strong winds present an immediate threat during a hurricane. Category 5 hurricanes have winds that can exceed 155 mph and can cause extensive damage.
They have the potential to uproot trees, destroy structures, and turn random objects into dangerous projectiles.
Stronger structures tend to fare better than lightweight constructions when exposed to high winds.
But, the severity of wind damage is often proportional to the intensity of the storm and the infrastructure’s resistance.
Heavy rains brought on by storms can be just as damaging as the winds themselves.
Damage to homes, infrastructure, and the environment can be substantial when flash flooding occurs as a result of heavy rains.
In low-lying and inadequate drainage locations, water can quickly build, posing a serious risk to human life and property in the event of a flood.
Fact: Extreme rainfall and consequent flooding can affect areas far from the shore, demonstrating the far-reaching nature of a hurricane's effects.
The storm surges that accompany hurricanes can also be extremely dangerous.
When a storm’s winds force water towards the beach, it piles up in a phenomenon known as a storm surge that can be higher than the normal sea level.
Significant coastal flooding is a leading cause of fatality during hurricanes, and this surge can contribute to that.
How dangerous a storm surge will be depends on many factors, such as:
- The size and shape of the approaching hurricane
- The depth of the water
- The angle at which it hits the coast
In mountainous or hilly areas, hurricanes can trigger landslides and mudslides.
The saturated earth becomes unstable and prone to slipping downhill as a result of the heavy rains.
These slides can bury houses and highways, causing fatalities and isolating entire neighborhoods.
Tornadoes can sometimes form within hurricanes and they can be extremely dangerous.
Often occurring in bands to the right of the hurricane’s course, these tornadoes are not as powerful or persistent as their Midwest counterparts but can still cause major damage.
An Important Consideration
After a hurricane has passed, the threat it poses remains. The fallout can be just as bad, if not worse.
As a result of the flooding that commonly follows a hurricane, drinking water supplies can become contaminated and waterborne diseases can proliferate.
Power outages can impede life-saving services, while infrastructure damage can slow recovery efforts.
Fact: The economic impact of hurricanes can be substantial as well, leading to the closure of enterprises and the loss of jobs for locals.
Is the Right Side of a Hurricane More Dangerous?
Have you ever wondered why the eastern side of a storm is considered to be the most hazardous by meteorologists?
According to experts, the right-front quadrant of a storm in the Northern Hemisphere typically features stronger winds, waves, and storm surge.
The upper-level atmospheric airflow causes steering currents, which increase the maximum sustained winds in that quadrant.
If a hurricane’s sustained winds are 80 to 100 miles per hour and the steering currents are traveling at 30 miles per hour, the resulting wind speed is 130 to 150 miles per hour, causing serious damage.
An Important Consideration
Maximum sustained winds move counter to the steering currents on the hurricane’s left side.
A 30 mph steering current would reduce a 100 mph hurricane’s wind speed to 70 mph.
The National Hurricane Center considers this when making its wind predictions.
Storm Surge is the Greatest on the Eastern Side of a Hurricane
Wave height, wind gusts, and storm surge are all affected by how rapidly the wind is blowing on the “right side” of a hurricane, where the most energy is concentrated.
That is exactly the reason why the right side of a hurricane is considered more dangerous.
According to the National Hurricane Center, the amount of water propelled onshore by hurricane-force winds far exceeds the amount of water caused by storm surge resulting from a lower pressure.
Why Are Hurricanes So Dangerous from a Psychological Viewpoint?
The destructive power of hurricanes and their accompanying high winds can have long-lasting psychological effects.
It is easy to forget that there is a psychological cost to natural catastrophes that is just as real and important as material damage.
Following a cyclone, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a typical mental health consequence.
After experiencing or witnessing a horrific incident, such as a hurricane that threatens human life, a person may acquire post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Some symptoms are nightmares, extreme anxiety, and intrusive, repetitive thoughts about the disaster.
Hurricanes are unpredictable and difficult to prepare for, both of which can increase emotions of powerlessness and terror, two factors that contribute to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Fact: Constant media attention in the wake of such tragedies might contribute to the development of PTSD or exacerbate existing symptoms.
Hurricanes can cause a variety of mental health problems, including anxiety disorders.
Even people who have never struggled with mental health can develop persistent anxiety due to the fear and uncertainty caused by these situations.
The potential for future catastrophes, the unpredictability of recovery, and worries about loved ones’ safety all contribute to this dread.
Some of the most common symptoms of anxiety disorder include:
- Sleep problems
- Difficulty concentrating
Those who survive a hurricane are especially at risk for developing depression.
Sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest in once-enjoyed activities are classic symptoms of depressive disorders.
These disorders can result from the loss of homes, personal items, and even loved ones.
Some people may have persistent depression as a result of the prolonged and difficult process of rehabilitation and rebuilding.
Disorder of Adjustment
Disorders of adjustment, in which the sufferer has an exaggerated response to stress, are also frequent after hurricanes.
Daily tasks may become more challenging, sleeping or eating patterns may shift, and individuals may suffer intense feelings of sorrow.
Within three months following the traumatic incident, these symptoms often manifest as a defense mechanism against the stress of transitioning to the new normal.
An Important Consideration
Children, despite their resistance, are especially susceptible to the psychological toll of natural disasters like hurricanes.
Bedwetting, excessive clinginess, academic struggles, and emotional distress are all possible symptoms.
Long-term impacts on their mental health may result from the trauma of having their normal routine and sense of security upended.
Why are Hurricanes Becoming More Dangerous?
Human activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels, has added a great deal of heat to the waters and air where these storms are born over the previous two centuries and more.
Extreme storms hit the Gulf Coast, Central America, and the Caribbean in 2020, making it the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record.
Many of these storms showed telltale indicators that they were fueled to catastrophic proportions by human-caused climate change.
It is true that records of global temperatures go back more than a century and a half.
But, there was surprisingly little information about hurricanes before satellites began taking pictures of the world’s oceans in the 1970s.
Researchers have found that hurricanes are getting more damaging in several important ways, and they are still understanding the full extent of this change as a result of increased temperatures.
What makes a hurricane so dangerous? Several things come together to make hurricanes particularly hazardous.
There is a high risk of death and property destruction due to the devastating winds associated with these massive storms.
While the storm surge that commonly accompanies hurricanes is the primary cause of death along coastlines, the flash flooding and landslides they cause are also major killers.
Knowing how to prepare for hurricanes and putting into practice disaster management measures can lessen their effects and keep people safe.